by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor (Interviews by Olalekan Okusan, ITTF-Africa Press Officer)
Winner of the Women’s Singles title at the 2010 African Championships in Yaoundé, Sarah Hanffou emerged successful against the player who secured the precious title in both 2002 in Bizerte and more recently in 2016 in Agadir. She prevailed six games (11-6, 12-14, 8-11, 11-5, 11-5, 11-8).
“I feel so good to be in the semi-final. I have been waiting for this moment for a long time. I have been working hard as a lawyer and player in my bid to make it to the 2020 Olympic Games in Japan. Before the match, I told myself that the best player should win. I am happy that I am in the top four of the championship.” Sarah Hanffou
Impressively Sarah Hanffou secured the opening game, imposing her style on proceedings. However, at the end of the third game a change was needed; she adapted. Level at two games apiece the contest was in the balance but the scales weighed in the direction of Sarah Hanffou, as the Nigerian made unforced errors.
“There is no doubt that the loss will not affect our friendship. She was very settled and relaxed in the match; she deserved to win.” Olufunke Oshonaike
Defeat for the second seed, there was also defeat for the third seed; Algeria’s Lynda Loghraibi, who the previous day had topped her group winning every match the full five games distance, notably beating Nigeria’s Offiong Edem, the no.4 seed (11-8, 11-7, 4-11. 9-11, 12-10), maintained the pattern when in the main draw matches became best of seven games.
In tense duel she accounted for Egypt’s Farah Abdel-Aziz, the no.3 seed (7-11, 6-11, 11-9, 5-11, 11-5, 11-6, 11-6).
“I am just enjoying myself in the competition. It is amazing that I defeated two of the best players in Africa; the wins have boosted my confidence for the semi-final. I came to this competition just to enjoy myself because I have nothing to lose. I was clam in all my matches and I played with a lot of caution.” Lynda Loghraibi
Two surprise outcomes at the quarter-final stage of the Women’s Singles event but there were no more; Nigeria and Egypt once again being the countries in question. Dina Meshref, the top seed, flew the flag for the former beating Christy Bristol of the Seychelles (11-3, 11-3, 11-7, 11-4); for the latter, Offiong Edem, the no.4 seed, recovered from a two games to one deficit to end the hopes of Tunisia’s Safa Saidani (5-11, 11-7, 3-11, 11-5, 12-10, 11-8).
“I could not understand the match at all because I was just too nervous throughout. I could not play any strokes and most of my shots were just going out. I am so happy that I was able to win because I was really tense throughout the encounter. Offiong Edem
In the penultimate round Dina Meshref meets Offiong Edem; Lynda Loghraibi faces Sarah Hanffou.
“I am very happy to reach the last four of the tournament and I hope to win the title. In the semi-final Offiong Edem will not be an easy match; she is a very good and tough opponent. I just need to remain focused and not think about the high altitude.” Dina Meshref
Both semi-finals and finals are scheduled for Saturday 3rd March.